A sealed, mint condition copy of the video game Super Mario 64 has sold at auction for more than $1.5m (£1.1m), making it the most expensive video game ever sold.
The game cartridge, dating from 1996, was in high demand at US auction house Heritage Auctions for its “historical significance, rarity and condition” since there are “fewer than five copies” in such good condition.
Super Mario 64 remains one of most critically acclaimed video games of all time, with its three-dimensional platforming helping to sell millions of Nintendo 64 consoles upon its launch.
“It seems impossible to overstate the importance of this title, not only to the history of Mario and Nintendo, but to video games as a whole,” said Valarie McLeckie, a video games specialist for Heritage Auctions, which handled the sale.
The cartridge sold on Sunday had received a 9.8 A++ rating by the video game collectible firm Wata, which means it is “like new”, in near-perfect condition and with an intact seal.
“This is Mario’s debut appearance in a 3D world, and it was the most popular – bestselling – video game for the N64,” McLeckie added. “Considering this, and the fact that there are fewer than five sealed in this grade according to Wata, this copy is a true prize for any serious collector.”
The sale value is nearly double that of the previous record-breaker, an original The Legend of Zelda cartridge for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) from 1988, which had been set just two days before at $870,000 (£744,000).
“After the record-breaking sale of the first game in the Zelda series on Friday, the possibility of surpassing $1m on a single video game seemed like a goal that would need to wait for another auction,” McLeckie said. “We were shocked to see that it turned out to be in the same one!”
The copies of Super Mario 64 and The Legend of Zelda have been sold as collector’s items rather than to play, since Nintendo has rereleased both for its modern Nintendo Switch console.
Super Mario 64 was the bestseller for the Nintendo 64 system and is considered a pioneer for introducing a new style that allowed players to move freely through the space rather than being restricted to side-scrolling through levels.
However some experts have warned that the video game collectibles market is in danger of overheating, with interest in factory-sealed retro games soaring over the past year, generating enormous profits for some collectors.
After the sale, the games writer and broadcaster Pat Contri tweeted: “This ‘pump’ is unnatural and dangerous long-term. 99% of these games are not as rare as these purchase prices justify, the price increases are meteoric, and we do not know how many copies of each title exists.”